The Texas basketball big men dominated the paint on defense all night long.
Their performance proved to be just enough to allow the Longhorns to overcome their sloppiest offensive performance of the season and eke out a closer-than-expected 63-53 win over UT-Arlington.
No. 6 Texas recorded a school-record-tying 13 blocks, including eight in the first half, while out-rebounding the Mavericks 52-25. Freshman forward Myles Turner and his five blocks led the Longhorns and forced UT-Arlington to settle for shots outside the lane throughout the game. The Mavericks finished the game just 20-of-55 from the field.
The Texas offense made just 18-of-60 field-goal attempts, good for a season-low 30 field-goal percentage. It marked the third game in its last five that Texas got off to a slow start offensively. The Longhorns began the game just 2-of-14 from the field, including 1-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc, and trailed 15-7 after 6-and-a-half minutes.
“We came out slow,” senior forward Jonathan Holmes said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
Texas went on a 32-13 scoring run from there to enter halftime with a 39-28 lead. But the Mavericks kept hanging around. They made just enough shots to take advantage of the Longhorns’ struggles and keep it close, trailing by as few as 5 points with under 7 minutes remaining in the game.
“[Head coach Rick Barnes] really just wanted us to put this one away and get ready for the next game because this is behind us,” Turner said. “We’re going to watch film and get better from it.”
Turner was the only player to score in double digits for either team, tallying 18 points despite connecting on only 2-of-10 shots. He went 14-of-17 from the free-throw line.
Holmes tied his career high with 16 rebounds to lead Texas, but he scored 9 points on 3-of-11 shooting and went just 1-of-7 on 3-pointers. Junior center Cameron Ridley had another down game, grabbing just two rebounds after failing to record any Sunday against UConn. He played 17 minutes, his fourth consecutive game of under 20 minutes.
The narrow victory was alarming for Texas, considering that No. 1 Kentucky dominated UT-Arlington in its 92-44 victory last week. The Longhorns take on the Wildcats in Lexington on Friday, but Holmes said the players weren’t looking ahead during their game against the Mavericks.
“We made a conscious effort,” Holmes said. “We watched a lot of film on these guys. We game planned for this game just like we game plan for every other game. We talked amongst ourselves that this team isn’t someone we can look over because they play really hard.”
With the victory, the Longhorns improved to 7-0 on the season and 4-0 at home. They know they’ll have to play much better Friday against Kentucky, which is widely considered the nation’s best team, to keep their undefeated season alive.